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December 12, 2007

Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture presents Andrea Robbins and Max Becher: Portraits

January 31 – March 22, 2008

Contact: Thomas Moore
Director of Arts & Culture

Note: You may view or download this release as a pdf file.

UMBC’s Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture (CADVC) presents Andrea Robbins and Max Becher: Portraits, opening on January 31, 2008 and closing on March 22, 2008.

This exhibition, organized by Maurice Berger, Senior Research Scholar of the Center for Art, Design, and Visual Culture, is the first to examine the portrait photographs of the esteemed husband-and-wife team of Andrea Robbins and Max Becher. Their portraits—like their radical landscapes and city-scenes—are powerfully evocative, boldly subverting our expectations of the discipline. Rather than "capturing" the visual essence of a sitter, they reveal identity to be complex, transitive, and culturally and historically defined.

The artists capture their subjects in ways that transform, enhance, and accentuate our understanding of them. They do so with the full complicity and respect of the people they photograph. They spend weeks living with each community they document. They immerse themselves in its history. They interview its residents and participate in their rituals and customs. They photograph them in various, active stages of work, play, and home life.

Ultimately, Robbins and Becher allow their subjects to represent themselves—not only as they would like to been seen, but also in ways that illuminate the complexity of their humanity. By seeing identity as changeable and conditional, these improbable portraits remind us that who we are is as much a matter of choice as destiny.

The exhibition and full-color catalog (published by CADVC and distributed by DAP) will contain eight series created over the past fifteen years: German Indians (1997-98) examines the long-standing fascination of the German people with the American West, and particularly its Native cultures by documenting annual gatherings of Indian fan clubs in Radebeul, Germany. Colonial Remains (1991) portrays life in the former German colony of Namibia, an African nation that continues to struggle with the task of reversing the effects of years of racism and colonial rule. Bavarian by Law (1995-96) depicts the logging town of Leavenworth, Washington, now refashioned to look like Bavaria, not because of its residents' ancestry, but because its landscape resembles alpine Germany.

The Americans of Samaná (1998-2001), observes the world of the descendants of freed African-American slaves, who live on the Samaná Peninsula, Dominican Republic—a people who continue to preserve aspects of American culture dating back to the time of their migration in the early nineteenth century. Sosúa (1999-2000) documents another migrant Dominican community: German and Austrian Jewish refugees, resettled in 1938 in the island nation by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in order to escape persecution in Europe.

In The Oregon Vortex (1994), a hillside in southwest Oregon, the artists explore an extraordinary optical illusion endemic to the site: people who stand opposite each other on level ground appear smaller when positioned on one side than the other. Postville (2005) looks at a community in rural Iowa consisting of ultra orthodox Hassidic Jews, home to the largest number of Rabbis per capita in the United States. And, in decidedly untraditional portraits, Figures (2002), the artists explore the complexities of memory, taste, and nostalgia by juxtaposing plastic action figures of the same characters, dolls based on the film Star Wars but produced at different times—one in the period of the original movie's release in the 1970s, the other to coincide with one of its sequels in the 1990s.

About the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture (CADVC)
The Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture (formerly known as the Center for Art and Visual Culture or CAVC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the study of contemporary art and visual culture, critical theory, art and cultural history, and the relationship between society and the arts. The CADVC serves as a forum for students, faculty, and the general public for the discussion of important aesthetic and social issues of the day. Disciplines represented include painting, sculpture, drawing, printmaking, photography, digital art, video, film, television, design, architecture, advertising, and installation and performance art.

Since 1989, the CADVC has incorporated a number of public programs into its exhibition programming schedule to further impact the communities it serves. Symposia, lecture series, conferences, film series, visiting artist series, and residencies have all been fundamental in an effort to create an ongoing dialogue about contemporary art and culture. The Center has also initiated a number of projects with Baltimore and surrounding schools systems to integrate the contemporary artist and their concerns into the classroom. These projects take place on-site at both middle schools and high schools and are team taught by the instructors at these schools, professional artists, and students from the CADVC’s Internship Program.

The Center produces one to two exhibition catalogues each year. Each document is fully illustrated and contains critical essays on the given subject by a variety of distinguished professionals in the field. Recent publications include Postmodernism: A Virtual Discussion and Paul Rand: Modernist Design. These books and catalogues are published and are distributed internationally through Distributed Art Publishers.

Since 1992, the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture has actively pursued the organization of exhibitions that contain the aesthetic, theoretical, and educational potential to reach both a national and international audience. Over the years, the CADVC has traveled these exhibition projects to a broad spectrum of museums, professional non-profit galleries, and universities national and internationally. Recent traveling exhibitions include:

White: Whiteness and Race in Contemporary Art (2003)
Fred Wilson: Objects and Installations (2001)
Adrian Piper: A Retrospective (1999)
Bruno Monguzzi: A Designer’s Perspective (1998)
Minimal Politics (1997)
Kate Millet, Sculpture: The First 38 Years (1997)

Beyond the scope of these traveling exhibitions, the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture also undertakes an exhibition schedule that includes a Faculty Biennial, and projects such as the Joseph Beuys Tree Partnership. As part of the educational mission of the CADVC, one graduate thesis exhibition and one undergraduate senior exhibition are scheduled on a yearly basis.

This multi-faceted focus for presenting exhibitions, projects and scholarly research publications focused on contemporary art and cultural issues positions the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture in a unique position within the mid-Atlantic region.

Hours and Admission
Sunday and Monday — Closed
Tuesday through Saturday — 10 A.M. – 5:00 P.M.
Admission is free.

UMBC Artsline (24 hour recorded message): 410-455-ARTS
Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture: 410-455-3188

UMBC Arts website:
Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture:
Andrea Robbins and Max Becher:

• From Baltimore and points north, proceed south on I-95 to exit 47B. Take Route 166 toward Catonsville and then follow signs to the Fine Arts Building.
• From I-695, take Exit 12C (Wilkens Avenue) and continue one-half mile to the entrance of UMBC at the roundabout intersection of Wilkens Avenue and Hilltop Road. Turn left and follow signs to the Fine Arts Building.
• From Washington and points south, proceed north on I-95 to Exit 47B. Take Route 166 toward Catonsville and then follow signs to the Fine Arts Building.
• Daytime metered visitor parking is available in the Administration Drive Garage.
• Online campus map:

Images for Media
High resolution images for media are available online:
or by email or postal mail.
All images in this release ©Andrea Robbins and Max Becher.

Posted by tmoore at December 12, 2007 3:31 PM